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Saudi Judge Bars Women from Trial of Human Rights Activist

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

Just ten days after the first Saudi woman was granted a lawyer's license, a judge prohibited women from attending  the public trial of activist Dr. Abdualkareem al-Khudar, founding member of the Kingdom's defiant leading human rights organisation, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

Saudi law makes it difficult for organisations like ACPRA to even exist. The monarchy does not acknowledge basic human rights like freedom of speech, bans most forms of association and restricts public assembly.

More than 40 men and women supporters arrived at the court in Buraidah city to witness the fourth session of Dr. al-Khudar's trial on April 24, 2013, which is the latest in a series of legal proceedings against human rights activists of the ACPRA. In 2012, dozens of prominent human rights activists were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

al-Khudar objected to women being barred from his trial and refused to enter the courtroom. While he stood outside the court, a policeman detained him. His lawyer Abdulaziz Shubaily (@a_abdulaziz300) [ar] went to the head of Buraidah Criminal Court to find out why his client had been detained and tweeted [ar]:

ذهبت للمحكمة وقابلت رئيس المحكمة على العمر قال أن القاضي إبراهيم الحسني أصدر أمربالإيقاف٤أشهر والجلسة القادمة لم تحددبعد.

@a_abdulaziz300 I went to the court and met its head Ali al-Omar. He said that Judge Ibrahnim al-Hussni issued a four-month detainment order.

Last month a verdict was announced in the 9-month trial of two other ACPRA founding members, Dr. Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid. They were sentenced to ten and eleven years in prison respectively for “breaking allegiance to the ruler and his successor” and “trying to impede the country’s developments”.

The ACPRA revealed that al-Qahtani and al-Hamed had been told that the government would drop legal action against them if they agreed to stop their activism, but both men said they preferred “going to jail over being silent.”

Women were allowed to attend those proceedings, but today, the judge cited a Quranic verse to back his decision to bar them. ACPRA member Abdullah al-Sied (@abdulllah1406) tweeted [ar]:

Dr. al-Khudar (in the middle) before the beginning of the session.

Dr. al-Khudar (in the middle) before the beginning of the session. Image uploaded by @acprahr

القاضي ابراهيم الحسني يستدل بآية ( وقرن في بيوتكن ) على منعه لدخول النساء #محاكمة_حسم_القصيم

@abdulllah1406: Judge Ibrahim al-Hussni cited the Quran verse “And abide in your houses” for prohibiting women's entry to ACPRA trial.

Saudi Arabia officially imposes Sharia law. The country's criminal code does not rely not on written statutes but on commentaries and interpretations of the Quran and other sources of Sharia, often made arbitrarily by judges who are government-appointed clergymen.

Human Rights activist Bandar Shammari (@xalshammari) traveled to Buraidah to attend the trial but was denied entrance based on how he  ”looked”. He tweeted [ar]:

حرس المحكمة الجزائية ببريدة منعوني من الدخول بحجة “ان شكلي ليس كالسعودي” :(

@xalshammari: The guards of Buraidah Criminal Court did not allow me to enter because my “looks do not seem Saudi.” :(

Activist Waleed Abualkair (@abualkhair) [ar]:

السياسي يقول للخارج بأنه يسعى لضمان حقوق المرأة لكن المشكلة في مجتمعنا .. بينما هو يعزز من مكانة القاضي الذي يحتقر المرأة ويسجن الإصلاحيين

@abualkhair: The political [regime] says to foreigners that it defends women's right, but the root of the problem lies in this society..Now [the regime] is supporting a judge who insults women and imprisons reformists.

In a previous session, al-Khudar requested that his  case be shifted to another judge, because of a personal conflict that he had with the judge before the trial. But the judge refused his request saying that it would not affect his judgment.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world and has a devastating human rights record which includes arbitrarily detaining over 30,000 people. 

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

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